Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ned, Joe, How 'bout Them Bloggers?

The predictable rush to crown bloggers is today's MSM meme. The fickle big media are ever alert to trail a trend and just as quick to bury and ridicule the old ones.

Truth be told:
  1. Political bloggers are still the freaks in the corner of the schoolyard filled with ain't-my-kitten-cute sites.
  2. We just getting a handle on what works.
  3. Our readers -- voters, media, candidates and analysts -- are also just figuring us out as we figure ourselves out.
  4. We can't know how effective we are yet, and maybe not until after the primaries and general elections, if then.
  5. At this stage, it may end up that blogs of hundreds of hits a day are of little effect while those with many thousand can be powerful.
I confess that it is fun and satisfying to imagine that as a group and as individual writers, we are key players. You'd always rather be the playmaker than the backup or waterboy.

We still see silly hostility toward blogs from the alter kaker media sorts. Then there's tension and imitation as MSM realizes at least some of their audience is also our audience.

Today though was a hoot following the eking, squeaking victory for Ned Lamont over Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary. MSM fairly elbow each other to be known for saying this proves...something, but whatever it proves, bloggers have something to do with it.

Disclaimer: Orignally, I was intrigued by Lamont's candidacy and lamented Lamont's appearance in my neighborhood when I was gone. I even posted a link to coverage. I have never had any use for Lieberman and did not want him as VP candidate. However, when Lamont's campaign guy, Tom Swan, promised phone interviews a couple of times and didn't follow up, I figured that was a clear message.

If you cruise the past five months of LeftyBlogs listings, particularly for Connecticut and Massachusetts, you can see a bandwagon full of Lamont-related postings. Joe's arrogance piled up on his bad politics to earn him lots of negative electrons from bloggers.

If you go by the MSM, the blog posts were powerful. Consider the lead of a San Francisco Chronicle article, Rise of the "Netroots": upset hints at impact of online activists:

Ned Lamont's upset victory over incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman in Connecticut's Democratic primary Tuesday is an electoral lesson about the power -- and potential liabilities -- of bloggers and online organizers, a growing liberal political force collectively known as the "netroots."

From the initial support of Lamont by influential bloggers like Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos to the cash and volunteers supplied by the online progressive hub to the 11th-hour accusations on Tuesday that vandals had hacked into Lieberman's campaign Web site, the netroots have been a driving force in the campaign.

The netroots pushed voters to challenge Lieberman's support for the Iraq war and raised the national profile of Lamont, a previously unknown candidate.

On this side of town, the New York Times, was only slightly less breathless in its news analysis, A Referendum on Iraq Policy:

Mr. Lamont’s victory marked the first time that liberal political blogs, after playing an increasingly noisy role in Democratic politics, have been associated with a major winning campaign, suggesting a moment of arrival for this new force in political combat.

...But even before the results were known, the accepted wisdom in political circles was that a victory by Mr. Lamont would signal there is little room in the Democratic Party for Iraq war supporters, an unwelcome event for a party still struggling to arrive at a unified position about the war, and elevate the influence of bloggers.

The actual outcome appears slightly more complicated than that. The bloggers certainly played a notable role in drawing attention to the Lamont candidacy, but they were one of a number of factors that contributed to the Lieberman defeat.

The bulk of political blogs thus aggregate with some of the powerhouses. (75,000 daily readers), (over half-million daily readers) and a few others helped raise both awareness and thousands in cash for Lamont. At firedoglake, Jane Hamsher told the Chronicle that the $60,000 her site raised didn't necessarily indicate much.

"There's a tendency to give the blogs more credit than they deserve. But the fact is that an 18-year incumbent has a lot more access to the media and can shape his narrative better. We just helped (Lamont) to tell his story a little better."

That may be accurate, but for the moment, the MSM loves to portray blogs as suddenly powerful, much as the MSM loves to claim they discovered blogs.

There are pollsters and other researchers observing and measuring. Come October, November and 2007, there are bound to be reports on how influential blog were in shaping voter opinion. There are also bound to be ones of at least as much interest to political parties and candidates -- ones on how much cash the blogs raised for whom.

We know this Baby Blogger can talk. This fall and next year, we may know what else it (we) can do. If the MSM decided that blogs are ineffective, they will sure to flush us quicker than used tissue.

On the other hand, hell, if pamphleteers could help start revolutions and overthrow tyrants, bloggers may well be good for something.

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1 comment:

Peter Porcupine said...

"On the other hand, hell, if pamphleteers could help start revolutions and overthrow tyrants, bloggers may well be good for something."

Hear hear! THAT has been my take since I began blogging, and is why I decided to blog as a pamphleteer of that era! (Being a Mass. GOP is a little more obscure politically - so I chose the most outrageous!)